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Fertility Information Lacking for Young Women Who Beat Cancer

Many young female cancer survivors say they don't receive enough information about preserving their fertility, a new study finds.

These women are at risk for early menopause because of their cancer treatment. If they want to have children but are not yet ready to start a family, they may be able to freeze their eggs or embryos after treatment, researchers explained.

"The potential loss of fertility has been described in the literature as being almost as painful, if not more so, than the cancer diagnosis itself," said study leader Catherine Benedict, of Northwell Health on Long Island, N.Y.

In the study, the researchers analyzed the results from an anonymous online survey of 179 women, average age 30, who had completed cancer treatment an average of five years earlier. Their fertility status was uncertain -- they either wanted children in the future or were undecided. None had undergone or attempted fertility preservation before or after their cancer treatment.

Up to 62 percent of the women said they had not received enough information about their fertility options, and two-thirds were worried about their ability to have children. Both concerns made it more difficult for women to think about whether to undergo fertility preservation in the future, the study found.

Two-thirds of the women said they wanted more advice about preserving their fertility and one-third wanted more support in making the decision, according to the study published online May 23 in the journal Cancer.

The findings highlight the need for better resources to help young adult female cancer survivors make informed choices about their future fertility, the researchers said.

"Failure to provide information and address concerns with respect to fertility-related decisions may have lasting consequences for young women who hope to move on from their cancer experience to achieve important life goals such as having children," Benedict said in a journal news release.

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